Road Tripping the Canadian Rockies – Banff to Edmonton

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Gateway to the Rockies – Edmonton to Banff

Banff National Park, Alberta

My father always told me there are two ways to do something – the right way and your way. These paternal words of wisdom echoed in my ear as my car collapsed in a heap of smoke somewhere in between Calgary and Edmonton as I drove from Banff. The plan was to cruise through the two gateway towns of the Canadian Rockies to pick up a friend from Edmonton International Airport. Sometimes the best made plans are mis-laid.

The beautiful skyline of Edmonton - not a good place for your car to break down.

The beautiful skyline of Edmonton - not a good place for your car to break down.

Before you read further, if you are about to book your trip to the Rockies, fly into Calgary if you have the chance. Only fly to Edmonton if it is cheaper or if you really want to see the city. We started our journey at the unforgivable time of 7am with half closed eyes. Due to the lack of a car stereo (essential for a road trip), I took the alarm clock from the house, placing it carefully on the dashboard – who needs technology?! With a full tank of fuel in the car and coffee that tasted like petrol in the throat, we drifted out of sleepy Banff towards Canmore and Calgary with Neil Young singing softly from the alarm clock radio.

The thing that hits you most about this drive, particularly when you get past Calgary, is the absolute whiteness of everything. These aren’t the sort of roads that inspire a Beatles song. They are boringly straight, safe, fast and oh-so-white. Everywhere you look – the fields, the horizon, the road – all are covered in a light blanket of snow. Even the sky seemed to be colour coordinated. To keep myself awake, I pulled into the small unimpressive town of Crossfield to purchase some putrid service station coffee – all part of the fun of a road trip!

As I mentioned earlier, the trip didn’t go without a hitch. Somehow I ended up driving through suburban Calgary for an hour before I escaped. To avoid my mistake and make your trip much quicker, take a look at the correct directions. Generally the trip should take between 4 and 5 hours. I won’t tell you how long it took me. The good news is that the airport is 40km closer than the city. It is well sign posted, easy to park, big and within minutes we were back on the road with friend safely tucked up in the back seat.

Banff - somewhere over the rainbow.

Banff - somewhere over the rainbow.

Edmonton is a surprisingly nice city once you get off the main roads. It has a sky line to rival any. Unfortunately because this was only a day trip, we didn’t have time (does one ever?!) to walk through what was until 2004 the world’s biggest mall – it is bloody huge. Instead we admired the skyline softly pasted onto the blue canvas sky behind. After stopping for non service station coffee in Tim Hortons, Lacombe, we were given a friendly warning by a local (possibly crazy) man. “If it’s -40 degrees and you fall on the ground and die – you’re dead!” Take note reader!

Though we managed to take the correct route home, avoiding Calgary city, the car didn’t enjoy the scenic route. In the middle of a 3 lane highway, smoke bellowed from the engine and the car spluttered to a stop. Water was poured in every hole the engine has, the battery was shook, the wires tightened and like terrible magic, we managed to crawl all the way home at 60km/h. The relief at seeing the fiery sun set on the Rockies as we slowly made our way back into the jewel of Canada is hard to describe. Actually it is quite simple – it was fantastic. Past Canmore, past the turn off for Lake Louise and then that beautiful welcoming sign for Banff as we made our way towards Banff Avenue – home and just as the alarm clock stereo ran out of battery!

For Correct Directions from Edmonton to Banff

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